Well, I've now tried this assignment I call an "article report" for two semesters.* The first semester was an out and out experiment, and it sort of worked for some students, and not for others. This semester, I'm just frustrated. It's not working well for more students, and it's a pain to grade.
So I'm looking for suggestions.
What sorts of assignments do you give to junior level courses that don't have (m)any prerequisite requirements, but fulfill major requirements?
I teach lit courses. Few if any of the students have had any early British lit, or early lit period, when they take the course.** The majors have often had theory. The junior level courses are basically umbrella type courses.
What I'm looking for are assignments that help students build towards writing lit type research papers, but that don't require those skills. So, I'm looking to build skills in one or more areas: asking good research questions, finding and reading "secondary" sources well (lit crit work, theoretical work, historical work), finding and reading "primary" sources well (early modern, theoretical), writing arguments about texts.
I want students to think better about what they use as evidence and how they use it, especially.
So, what sorts of assignments do you give that will 1. help students learn (some of) the skills to write real research papers, and 2. not require much background in the field.
How much writing do you have students do at this level, realistically? How much reading?
* The "article report" asked them to read a "secondary" source carefully, paying attention to what it uses as evidence and how it uses the evidence.
** We have no "survey" sorts of courses/requirements. We do have sophomore level courses that look part of a field, but they don't do survey sorts of stuff. So, instead of Beowulf to Virginia Woolf in a year, our students may take one or two lower-level courses looking at Shakespeare, Women Writers, Asian American lit, 19th century British Novels, and so on. They're way better experiences for instructors AND students than most big survey courses ever seem to be, but the downside is that our students have no sense of literary development and change over time, nor of historical change over time. So they don't have a framework. If I ask them what "Romanticism" is, they generally have no clue. On the other hand, they don't start out hating Chaucer.